Finding Freedom Through Financial Literacy


For many women, money is not a choice topic of conversation. Whether this is due to the remnants of society’s shift from a woman’s dependency on her spouse or just the effect of today’s uncertain economic climate, it cannot be denied women are undeserved in terms of financial planning.

“If you think about it until our generation, most women haven’t felt empowered by money,” says Helen Bui, Founder of Skylet Campus.

“Women think about money as survival, whereas men think about money in terms of their future and empowerment. Women typically spend it all when they have it because they think it’s just enough to get by, they don’t think about money enabling their future.”

And the recent election didn’t help.

“There are all these doubts now about student loan debt and inequality among Millennial women,” adds Bui. “While things are happening and we may feel powerless, we are powerful in different ways. We might not have a woman president in January, but we can change our lives with our wallets.”

According to Bui, whose parents immigrated to the US from Vietnam when she was an infant, American women are desperately in need of financial training. Bui reports that only 18 percent of millennial women demonstrate strong financial literacy, which translates to about 8 million in 38 million young adult women, and this does not bode well when it comes to future independence.

“We are a reactive culture. People are inherently bad planners; they don’t plan. To change any kind of idea around financial education, we realized we had to do something different than others do.”

To address this issue, Bui launched Stash-it, an app designed to help people develop solvent financial habits, in October 2015. After introducing her platform to the Apple App Store she quickly realized there was white space when it came to millennial women, who were lagging behind their male counterparts in terms of fiscal responsibility. She evolved her concept and in September 2016, introduced Skylet Campus, a new Gen Y-targeted app meant to provide community support, discussion, Q&As, educational videos, product reviews, money hacks, and tools to help money management become second nature to women.

“We realized that our mission is more needed than ever,” says Bui, adding that Skylet Campus app, which is $50 a year or $5 a month, gains about 1,000 new users on a monthly basis. “The power of women isn’t just the money they spend; we are starting to lead companies now. I want to see more female business leaders. I want to encourage women through this world of doubt they are feeling.”

Bui is currently running an “equality initiative,” offering free access to the app to all new members till January 1, 2017. In addition, Skylet Campus will also donate a free membership to young women in undeserved areas for every new member who joins by the end of the year.

“Because financial habits are harder to break when you are older, we want to start at college age,” says Bui, a former executive at News Corp. “We quickly found that money wasn’t being discussed anywhere, particularly [when it came to] these young women. We also understood there is a huge disconnect between social class around money. We talk about money differently with people who have it vs. people who don’t. We need to break down those boundaries.”
Not only are there few options for women, but the financial syllabuses that do exist, Bui says, are outdated, unapproachable and usually not digital or mobile in nature.

For Bui, it was imperative that the education she offered be relatable and applicable. She helps her members learn the ins and outs of modern financial platforms like Venmo, and helps them understand how to fill out tax documents. “If you look online, it’s a fire hose of information,” she says. “If you search something you may end up on a mommy blog somewhere, reading content that’s not really written for you.”

According to Bui, the element of trust is another huge factor when it comes to financial literacy.

“We can’t rely on banks because they actually prefer that we know less and colleges don’t teach life skills anymore,” she says. “[Financial education is] left with parents and not many know how to talk to their kids about it.”

Following in her own footsteps, Bui is completely self-funded. She has three employees and a “ton of interns and ambassadors.”

“The biggest investment I made is the investment I made myself,” says Bui, who is focusing on additional partnerships and sponsorships as well as releasing new tools like money-inspired emojis in the next year. “I put a bet on myself more than stocks, a mutual fund, or a financial adviser, and I’m proud of that because that’s what I’m telling other people to do as well.”

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Do 2020 Presidential Candidates Still Have Rules to Play By?

Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.

When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.

2016: What rules?

Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.

Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.

And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.

And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?

Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.

Digital policies for 2020 and beyond

While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.

Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy

Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:

  • If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
  • While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
  • If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
  • Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
  • Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?

Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.

Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply

The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:

  1. Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
  2. Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
  3. Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
  4. Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
  5. Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
  6. Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
  7. Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
  8. Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.

Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles

Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.